Saturday, March 02, 2013

Younger Middle Grade Books

About AverageClements, Andrew. About Average.
24 July 2012, Atheneum Books for Young Readers 

**Spoiler Alert**Jordan Johnston doesn't have any particular talents, she gets C's and B's, and she isn't pretty and vivacious like the girls in her class. When mean girl Marlea finds a list that Jordan jotted down about her strengths and weaknesses, Marlea uses this information to make fun of Jordan, especially her strong points of being good at babysitting and gardening. Jordan realizes, with the help of her friend Nikki, that one of Jordan's best points is that she is always a good friend and nice. Jordan decides to deflect all of Marlea's barbs with kindness; while this doesn't stop Marlea from being mean, it makes Jordan feel better. When a fierce storm surprises Jordan's class during an after school band rehearsal, she uses some of her babysitting related fort building skills to help her classmates stay calm and safe.
Strengths: Clements always writes interesting school stories about things that concern younger middle grade readers. This is a realistic depiction of bullying behavior, including a description of the school's antibullying process and why Jordan doesn't want to go through it.
Weaknesses: This is missing the subversive edge that Clements' books usually have. This makes them appeal to the older students as well. This seemed, well, a bit average. The interior illustrations seemed very 1980s to me. 

Call Me Oklahoma! Glassman, Miriam. Call Me Oklahoma!
15 February 2013, Holiday House
ARC from Baker and Taylor 

Paige has decided that fourth grade will be different. She wants everyone to call her Oklahoma, and she has a new style of dress for her new, more outgoing persona. She's excited that mean girl Viveca won't be in Ms. Hardy-Wilson's class, and she's excited to see her friends Gavi, Lily, and Mackenzie again. It's hard to adopt a new persona, but her teacher is willing to call her her new name, putting some of the comments of other students to rest. Viveca, however, has ended up in her class and keeps poking fun of Oklahoma and excluding her... until Oklahoma buys a stuffed monkey at the book fair that all of the students like. Viveca tries to get a club started, and invites Oklahoma... but not her friend Gavi. Oklahoma has to make a choice-- does she want to be in the talent show by herself and refuse to be friends with Viveca? How strong does her new persona make her, and how strong is she as just Paige?
Strengths: If I recall, third and fourth grade are filled with Girl Drama, and the attempts to set up clubs and exclude people is something the teachers have to address all the time. Paige was a fun character who really was trying to discover herself and fit in. I think she will be very popular with girls who like Amber Brown, Ivy and Bean, and the Friends for Keeps series.
Weaknesses: The stakes are much higher in middle school, so this is too young for my group.

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